The Wall Summary (John Marks)

John Marks

The Wall

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Carlton Styles, a badly disfigured, psychotic CIA agent, suspects Douglas Gleaming of being Jeri Klek because of the harmless young civilian entomologist’s resemblance to the notorious Palestinian terrorist. When Douglas’ brother Stuart, a career army officer, defects to the East, Styles is convinced the two are co- conspirators. Styles also suspects Captain Nester Cates of treasonous involvement because he is Stuart’s best friend and seemed implicated in a recent bombing at a high-tech listening post. Styles gives Nester twenty-four hours to find Stuart and bring him back dead or alive. Several women are involved in the chase, including Nester’s girlfriend Waltraud, Stuart’s Communist lover Uta, and a young American would-be journalist named Jodie who accidentally gets the scoop of a lifetime. The hide-and-seek plot takes the reader through harrowing scenes of the chaos erupting in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania as the economic collapse of the Soviet Union is forcing Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to loosen the Communist Party’s iron grip on its increasingly rebellious satellites.

Author John Marks was Bureau Chief of U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT in Berlin during the period that saw the reunification of Germany, the beginnings of the breakup of the Soviet empire, and the winding down of the Cold War. He is at his best when describing the politics and atmosphere of those dangerous times. THE WALL, his debut novel, is only sporadically dramatic because of constantly shifting viewpoints. The characters’ motivations seem obscure although they are continually explaining and debating their ideological positions.